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Landlords and agents operating in the private rented sector have been warned that they may be unable to evict tenants who fail to pay their rent or commit anti-social behaviour – because of their human rights.
The warning, from the Residential Landlords Association, follows a ruling by the Supreme Court. While the case concerned a social tenant and landlord, a second case is in the pipeline where a private tenant is relying on Article 8 in the European Convention on Human Rights to prevent eviction.
Hounslow Council had tried to evict tenant Rebecca Powell. She owed more than £3,500 in arrears after the authority housed her in temporary accommodation after she became homeless in April 2007. She was entitled to £15,000 in housing benefit but had not applied for it properly.
Having begun legal proceedings to evict her, the council was prevented from doing so after Ms Powell lodged an appeal claiming that the move breached her right under Article 8 to have respect for a person’s home.
Powell’s argument was upheld by Lords Hope and Phillips who ruled that the council had not considered whether it was ‘proportionate’ to evict Miss Powell and ordered that the eviction be quashed. The court left open the question of whether the same principle applies in the private rented sector.
Richard Jones, solicitor for the Residential Landlords Association, explained: “At present, landlords in the private rented sector are able to begin eviction proceedings based on a tenant breaching the terms of their contract if they fall into arrears on their rent by two months.
“Once a tenancy is ended, landlords can evict using Section 21 – the so-called ‘no fault notice only’ ground for possession.
“However, recent rulings by the Supreme Court raise the very real prospect now that it could become all but impossible to evict a tenant given the lack of clarity over what ‘proportionate’ action would look like.
“I am aware of at least one case where a private tenant is relying on Article 8 to try to avoid eviction which has gone to the Appeal Court. We are waiting to see what happens in this case.
“Even if this does not go ahead, another is going to come along and the question is going to have to be dealt with sooner or later.
“We very much hope that the courts will ultimately decide that Article 8 does not apply in the Private Rented Sector. This is the Government view.
“However, if it does, we would then call on the Government to work with the judiciary and EU allies to establish a clear definition of ‘proportionate’ action, to provide much-needed certainty to the housing sector as a whole.”
We will post further news features on this subject to update on the outcome.
Property Manager - Headington Lettings & Property Management
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